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Role-based access control (RBAC) is an access control mechanism that defines roles and privileges to determine whether a user should be granted access to a resource. Roles are defined based on characteristics such as a user’s location, department, seniority, or duties. Permissions are assigned based on access (what the user can see), operations (what the user can do) and sessions (how long the user can do it).

What are the three primary rules for RBAC?

  1. Role assignment: A user can exercise privileges if they have been assigned a role.
  2. Role-based authorization: A user’s role must be authorized, ensuring that users can only take on roles for which they are authorized.
  3. Privilege authorization: A user can exercise certain privileges if they are authorized to, based on their role assignment and authorization.

What are the benefits of RBAC?

Committing to the "principle of least privilege": RBAC helps in realizing Zero Trust security by assigning the fewest number of access permissions to a user based on their roles. The role defines the set of permissions required by the user to perform business tasks associated with their job function.

Reduce administrative burden: Use RBAC to add and switch roles quickly and implement them globally across operating systems, platforms, and applications. As well, reduce the potential for error when assigning user permissions. RBAC also helps to easily integrate third-party users into your network.

Separation of duties: Since roles are separated, in theory, no single user can be the cause of a significant breach as a hacker would be limited to whatever resources that account was permitted to access.

Improving compliance: RBAC helps organizations meet compliance regulations for data protection and privacy as well as statutory requirements enforced by regional and local government bodies. This is possible as IT departments and executives can manage data access permissions based on user roles.

What’s the difference between RBAC vs. ABAC?

Whereas RBAC bases permission on a user’s role, attribute-based access control (ABAC) relies on attributes related to the user (e.g., job title, seniority level, work duties), resource (e.g., file/application type, sensitivity, or source), or context (e.g., where, how, and/or when the resource is being accessed).

ABAC exponentially increases permissioning options with the addition of specific attributes, adding another level of control compared to RBAC. While infinitely more flexible than RBAC, this flexibility also adds complexity that can increase risk if not implemented and managed properly.

Do Entrust identity and access management (IAM) solutions facilitate RBAC?

Yes, Entrust's IAM solutions offer RBAC to simplify access management and ensure data privacy. The capability not only improves compliance to regional regulations, but also brings in the necessary operational efficiency by applying access privileges to roles versus establishing and managing user permissions individually.

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